Persson CU, von Stedingk K, Bexell D, Merselius M, Braekeveldt N, Gisselsson D, Arsenian-Henriksson M, Påhlman S, Wigerup C
Sci Rep 7 (1) 10274 [2017-08-31; online 2017-08-31]
Cultured cancer cells serve as important models for preclinical testing of anti-cancer compounds. However, the optimal conditions for retaining original tumor features during in vitro culturing of cancer cells have not been investigated in detail. Here we show that serum-free conditions are critical for maintaining an immature phenotype of neuroblastoma cells isolated from orthotopic patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). PDX cells could be grown either as spheres or adherent on laminin in serum-free conditions with retained patient-specific genomic aberrations as well as tumorigenic and metastatic capabilities. However, addition of serum led to morphological changes, neuronal differentiation and reduced cell proliferation. The epidermal growth factor (EGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) were central for PDX cell proliferation and MYCN expression, and also hindered the serum-induced differentiation. Although serum induced a robust expression of neurotrophin receptors, stimulation with their cognate ligands did not induce further sympathetic differentiation, which likely reflects a block in PDX cell differentiation capacity coupled to their tumor genotype. Finally, PDX cells cultured as spheres or adherent on laminin responded similarly to various cytotoxic drugs, suggesting that both conditions are suitable in vitro screening models for neuroblastoma-targeting compounds.